Concreteness Training: a Self Help Approach to Depression
Depression is one of the greatest of human tragedies. Often dismissed, trivialized and misunderstood, a cloud of pain in the mind of someone in the grip of depression is no less overwhelming than an acute physical discomfort is to an injured individual. Depression has wreaked whole lives, making its victims unhappy, unproductive, miserable and even suicidal. It has profound negative effects on the friends and family of someone who is suffering from depression. It is also terribly misunderstood.
So it is exciting to hear that a recent study performed in the UK is working on helping people cope with this grave condition.
Recognizing that “People suffering from depression have a tendency towards unhelpful abstract thinking and over-general negative thoughts, such as viewing a single mistake as evidence that they are useless at everything”, the authors of the study, which was conducted at the University of Exeter, developed a technique they are calling Concreteness Training (CNT) in the hope that by using CNT practice exercises, this tendency can be shifted directly by the depression sufferers themselves.
The technique is based on teaching individuals to keep their difficulties in perspective by reflecting more specifically on the set of problems arising in the episode of depression. It is thought this method will improve problem solving and reduce worry and brooding tendencies.
Study participants took on a daily exercise, focusing on a recent upsetting event. Using first a therapist and then an audio CD with guided instructions, they worked through a set of steps to examine the event and see how they might have been able to influence the outcome, rather than just accept the results.
“CNT significantly reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, on average reducing symptoms from severe depression to mild depression during the first two months and maintaining this effect over the following three and six months. On average, those individuals who simply continued with their usual treatment remained severely depressed.”
As Professor Edward Watkins of the University of Exeter notes: “This is the first demonstration that just targeting thinking style can be an effective means of tackling depression. Concreteness training can be delivered with minimal face-to-face contact with a therapist and training could be accessed online, through CDs or through smartphone apps. This has the advantage of making it a relatively cheap form of treatment that could be accessed by large numbers of people. This is a major priority in depression treatment and research, because of the high prevalence and global burden of depression, for which we need widely available cost-effective interventions.”
Depression adversely affects many people on a regular basis, and probably the majority of human beings at some point in their lives. It is an issue of men’s health in particular that is underplayed in a world where “guys are supposed to tough it out”. This dismissive denial has cost parents their sons, children their fathers and siblings their brothers. It has given friends tragic pain and loss, and cost the world the very lives of some men at the height of their creative and productive power.
As men affirming the physical and mental health of each other, we take the issue of depression very seriously, and are heartened by any new and promising approach to healing this age old scourge of the human mind.
This story came to the ManKind Project Journal through the good offices of Don Grabowski of New England, a New Warrior since 2007. See the original article at ‘Concreteness Training’ Can Be A Self-Help Treatment For Depression
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